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India vs New Zealand: BCCI suspends Pune pitch curator caught in sting operation

Curator Pandurang Salgaonkar was caught on video by India Today revealing information about the nature of the wicket and promising to alter it per bookies' demands ahead of the second ODI between India and New Zealand on Wednesday.

India vs New Zealand: BCCI suspends Pune pitch curator caught in sting operation MCA Stadium in Pune (Photo: BCCI Twitter)

New Delhi: Following a sting operation by undercover reporters, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) suspended Pandurang Salgaonkar, the pitch curator of Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) Stadium in Pune, for revealing information about the nature of the wicket and promising to alter it per bookies' demands ahead of the second ODI between India and New Zealand on Wednesday.

Salgaonkar even allowed the India Today reporters in disguise to take a look at the pitch, throwing the BCCI and ICC regulations out of the window.

"Pandurang Salgaonkar has been suspended from the Maharashtra Cricket Association's curator's post with immediate effect," BCCI acting Secretary Amitabh Chaudhary told PTI.

"The MCA has also suspended Salgaonkar from all other positions in the association. An inquiry Commission will also be constituted by MCA. At BCCI, we reiterate that we have zero tolerance towards any corrupt activity," he added.

The expose revealed a serious lapse in the functioning of the BCCI's anti-corruption mechanism but Chaudhary said today's match must go ahead.

"That is a decision that only the ICC match referee can take. You need evidence that the pitch has been doctored in order to call off a match. It's match referee's call. But in my opinion, match will go on," he asserted.

The undercover reporters asked the curator if a couple of players' demand for bounce in the pitch can be met and Salgaonkar replied, "it will be done".

He also revealed information that the pitch is going to favour batsmen and could produce 337-340 runs, which will remain chaseable for the team batting second.

What has left senior BCCI officials baffled is that Salgaoncar allowed a self-confessed bookie to accompany him to the main match pitch. Under BCCI rules no unaccredited persons, including journalists, are allowed near the pitch.

"The BCCI Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) under Neeraj Kumar will have some answering to do. Here a random man comes, doesn't have an all-access area pass and is taken to the main pitch by the curator," a BCCI official said.

Asked if the ACU unit should be answerable as to how an outsider got access to the pitch, Chaudhary said, "...everyone associated with the ACU would be answerable. In any case, a very select few have access to the centre of the pitch."

When contacted, BCCI acting President C K Khanna said he is writing a mail to Kumar so that his team gives an update on the incident.

"It's a pity that both former MCA President Ajay Shirke and current president Abhay Apte had helped Salgaonkar have a career after retirement. He gets Rs 65,000 salary per month from the MCA and also a BCCI pension. He is among BCCI's independent curators. We are feeling bad for both Abhay and Ajay. Salgaonkar let them down badly," Khanna said.

Former India captain Sourav Ganguly also expressed his shock.

"I don't know how he can tweak the pitch in one day and prepare it accordingly for a bookie. I don't know in what context he was saying this," Ganguly said.

Salgaoncar, a former Maharashtra speedster, was considered a genuine India prospect in the early and mid '70s.

He toured with the Indian team for an unofficial series against Sri Lanka back in 1974. Sunil Gavaskar's autobiography 'Sunny Days' mentions him as being a genuine prospect who was unlucky not to don national colours. He took 214 wickets in 63 first-class games.

The Pune pitch had been under the spotlight earlier as well. It had been rated poor by the ICC after an India- Australia Test match in February.

(With PTI inputs)